Outreach has been a critical component of the LSPCG’s work because of the project scope, level of infestation, visibility of the work, lack of initial awareness among MLS residents, and because chemicals are used. Providing answers to questions and concerns and serving as a trusted source of accurate information has helped lead to a successful program.
Initially, MLS council members and other members of the government were unaware of the issue of non-native Phragmites, so the LSPCG presented to council on several occasions to educate, update, and request support from members. One council member was enlisted to attend LSPCG meetings, and municipal and council staff were invited to attend site visits. The LSPCG also set up meetings and site visits with members of the Provincial and Federal governments, and representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Lambton County Public Works, and local media.
In the first few years of the project, the LSPCG offered four community information sessions. They were advertised with press releases and received media coverage, further spreading their educational reach. LSPCG members also presented at local community group meetings such as Rotary and interest-based clubs, garden and horticultural societies, and beach or cottage associations. The group assisted in the preparation of educational pieces including Smart Practices for Controlling Phragmites along Ontario Roadsides, and prepared the fact sheet Controlling Phragmites australis in Agricultural and Rural Areas.
LSPCG members identified over 125 privately owned parcels along waterways which contained non-native Phragmites. They then visited property owners to provide information about the project and obtain permission for herbicide application and controlled burns. Additionally, an educational piece was mailed to all MLS residents with their tax notices.
To help train field staff, such as those from municipalities, non-profits, and private businesses, the LSPCG partnered with the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation and the Ontario Phragmites Working Group to develop and deliver training opportunities that focus on identification and appropriate management techniques. Additionally, one partner developed monitoring sheets, which are widely used throughout the MLS.
Finally, a highly visible demonstration project was initiated on Mosquito Island at the mouth of the Ausable River to showcase successful management and increase awareness of the issue.
Strong communication efforts have made a significant contribution to the success of the program. It has ensured area residents have accurate information from the beginning and has allowed them to have their concerns addressed